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County to take another look at old courthouse
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Effingham County commissioners are trying to put together a committee to look at the best options for restoring the old courthouse.

Commissioners are expected to have names for the proposed committee ready at their Aug. 19 meeting. Last year, the county’s staff building committee looked at how best to renovate the courthouse and sheriff’s administrative complex and jail.

“There were a lot of ideas bandied about,” said county administrative assistant Adam Kobek.

Kobek proposed that the commissioners select a group to explore the best options for courthouse renovation. Under the proposal, two commissioners — Reggie Loper and Jeff Utley — and a group of five, with one each selected by the individual commissioners, would review how to best utilize the building and how to do it. The courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kobek reminded commissioners that whatever office or department they decide to place in the courthouse those agencies likely will need to have some things done to their specifications in the 100-year-old building.

“For instance, if you put in the GIS department, they will need data connections,” he said.

Commission Chairwoman Myra Lewis said the county offices that may eventually take up space in a renovated courthouse could be limited in order to maintain the building’s historic value.

Commissioners and staff also likely will discuss what to do about the addition on the back of the courthouse.

“Does the addition stay or go?” County Administrator David Crawley said. “Do we do a larger addition to get more offices over there? There a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

Commissioners delayed action on picking an architectural firm to oversee renovations at the courthouse. A staff-led process whittled the number of prospective firms from nine to two and they recommended James Buckley and Associates. But commissioners split 2-2 on the vote and split 2-2 on re-opening the bid process.

Commissioners also met with Jack Pyburn, a historic preservation architect, at the urging of residents concerned about the future of the courthouse.

Commissioners had discussed a master building plan last year, but put that off, and Kobek said it may be something they need to take up again.

“We’re working on pieces of a master building plan,” Crawley said.

The commissioners will make the final decisions on costs and contracts for courthouse renovation, Crawley said.